A Scrapbook of Bird Identifications (America and Canada)

What I have learned about identifying birds comes from photographing them in the wild and then pouring over field guides at home looking to match field marks. This can be quite a frustrating enterprise because, well... birds can be flighty. So I'd like to start this scrapbook with a warning: some of the shots in here are terrible; but just good enough to show important field marks that are key to correct identification. It's not always the bird's fault, but as I acquire better photos, I promise I'll replace the bad ones.

Personally, I think it takes a long time to get to know the "official" families of birds. So I tend to categorize them in the interest of dividing and conquering. Accordingly, I have separated them into "land" and "water" birds based on where they hang out. Within each group, some seem to belong together based on behavior or approximate size, while for others it just pays to get to know their families because they share so many behavioral characteristics, and a number of distinguishing field marks as well.

I have used a few of the technical terms for bird facial "parts" because they are so... well, useful. These include:

In the photo at right, the supercilium (as well as the crown) is buffy, the lores are yellow, the auriculars (and breast) are gray and the malar is white (as is the throat).

For each grouping below, I have given a few characteristics which they have in common, and a representative photo or two. Each sub-group links to a separate page with photos for those members that I have (I believe correctly) identified, along with the field marks that helped me. In some cases, I have attempted to describe their songs (for those few I have heard enough to learn), but beware: descriptions of bird calls are notoriously hard to translate from someone else's ear to yours!

Here is a table of shortcuts to those pages if you've been here before and want to get right to it:

Flycatchersfeeder birdsGullsdabblers
Hummingbirdsground foragersSkimmersdivers
Owlstree-climbersplunge-divers
Raptorssmall birdsshorebirds
Sparrowsmedium-size birdsswimmers
Swallowslarger birdswaders
Vireosfield birdswetland birds
Warblersgame birds
Woodpeckers
Wrens

I developed this scrapbook to help me identify "new" birds, and I hope that you will find it useful too! If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at kenneth.koehler@uc.edu

"Land" Birds - specific families

"Land" Birds - grouped by behavior or size

"Water" Birds - specific families

"Water" Birds - grouped by behavior

Click on any of the links above to see more pictures of (and some comments about identifying) birds in that group. Learning to identify birds takes a lot of patience and practice, as well as some old-fashioned

Good luck!


©2017, Kenneth R. Koehler. All Rights Reserved.